Spring-Clean Your Fridge and Freezer (cont.)

Food kept in the freezer so long that ice crystals dominate its appearance is safe to eat, since no organisms can live in subzero temperatures. And the nutritional quality remains intact. Still, you probably don't want to eat it -- the quality of this frozen tundra will certainly be less than ideal.

To prevent freezer burn, make sure that the food is tightly wrapped with freezer-quality wrap, and get as much air out between the food and the wrap.

For some guidelines on how long you can safely keep food in the refrigerator or freezer, I consulted the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Here's a chart with the times for various foods.

PRODUCT In Refrigerator
40 degrees Fahrenheit
(5 degrees Celsius)
In Freezer
0 degrees F
(-18 degrees C)
Fresh Meat:    
Beef: Ground 1-2 days 3-4 months
Steaks and roasts 3-5 days 6-12 months
Pork: Chops 3-5 days 4-6 months
Ground 1-2 days 3-4 months
Roasts 3-5 days 4-6 months
Cured Meats:    
Lunch Meat 3-5 days 1-2 months
Sausage 1-2 days 1-2 months
Hot dogs Unopened, 2 weeks
Opened, 1 week
Prepared salads (egg, tuna, etc) 3-5 days Don't freeze
Gravy 1-2 days 2-3 months
Soups or stews 3-4 days 2-3 months
Lean (such as cod,
flounder, haddock)
1-2 days up to 6 months
Fatty (such as blue, perch,
1-2 days 2-3 months
Chicken: Whole 1-2 days 12 months
Parts 1-2 days 9 months
Giblets 1-2 days 3-4 months
Dairy products:    
Swiss, brick, processed
3-4 weeks *
Soft cheese 1 week 6 months
Milk 5 days 1 month
Ice cream, ice milk - 2-4 months
Butter 1-3 months 6-9 months
Buttermilk 7-14 days 3 months
Cream cheese 2 weeks -
Cream 3-5 days 4 months
Sour cream 7-21 days -
Yogurt 7-10 days -
Eggs: Fresh in the shell 3 weeks -
Hard-boiled 1 week -
Pasteurized liquid 3 days (opened)
10 days (unopened)
1 year
Mayonnaise 2 months don't freeze
TV dinners - 3-4 months
Store-bought convenience meals 1-2 days -
Cooked meat leftovers 3-4 days 2-3 months
Pizza 3-4 days 1-2 months
Stuffing, cooked 3-4 days 1 month
Dough - tube can, cookies use-by date 2 months (don't freeze tube cans)
* Cheese can be frozen, but freezing will affect the texture and taste.
SOURCES: Food Marketing Institute for fish and dairy products, USDA for all other foods

Originally Published Friday, April 29, 2005.
Medically updated April 17, 2008.

SOURCES: FDA. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. The Food Keeper, the Food Marketing Institute.

©2005 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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